Lockdown dating: a guide

"We aren’t going to be bumping into the love of our life whilst picking up some Linda McCartney sausages from Sainsbury’s any time soon, and sharing a smooch over a vodka lemonade and a cigarette in the bridge smoking area is a long way off." Joe Drakeley shares how to successfully play the (virtual) field in quarantine.


Your ex is messaging you, that one-night stand from Bridge is in your Insta DMs and you are struggling not to write an Oxlove for that person you’ve been crushing on since day one of lectures; it’s Covid-19 quarantine and we’re here to teach you how to keep it casual. 

Casual dates, hook-ups, and flings are typical of many an Oxford student’s life. Yet all these things are currently under review in this strange world we are living in, and it can be difficult to see what that means for each of us still wanting to keep the thrills of a casual love life alive. It can be easy to be jealous of our friends who are in long-term stable relationships at this time, and who seem to have someone to cry with over Zoom. But I’m here to tell you that not all is lost, and if you play your cards right this lockdown could be the best thing for your love life. 

Let’s start with the obvious: we aren’t going to be bumping into the love of our life whilst picking up some Linda McCartney sausages from Sainsbury’s any time soon, and sharing a smooch over a vodka lemonade and a cigarette in the bridge smoking area is a long way off. This means any connections we make during this time are likely to have to stay online for a while, and in fact many of these connections may only ever exist online. This can lead to the sad realisation that quarantine dating is going to be very shallow; for every person claiming to be more interested in personality over looks on Tinder, there are 10 more who make it very clear that if you aren’t the right combination of genes and chromosomes you’d have a better chance at asking The Queen to dinner. Another problem you will more than likely encounter is just how slow things can take to develop; a day of talking via messages can feel like weeks if that chat doesn’t flow, or worse they take an age to respond (more on that later). But once you embrace these pitfalls and realise that real-world dating can be just as shallow, cut-throat, slow and messy, you realise that you not seeing that awkward Tinder match in the Plush queue any time soon is actually a godsend. 

So, let’s say you’ve tried Tinder or messaged that crush from last term and things seem to be going ok. But do they just see you as a mate? Someone to flirt with to pass the time? Or something more? This is where the art of the thirst trap comes in. Despite popular opinion, thirst traps don’t have to be at all revealing: just make sure you look your best however you wish to present yourself and the DMs will slide in. This is also useful if they are taking their sweet time to respond, a problem encountered by even the best of us I must confess. Many people would say drop it if someone takes a few days to read your message, and most of the time you should. Never double text (your dignity is worth more than that), but no one ever said your dignity was worth more than a stunner of an Insta pic and a flirty caption, did they? This kind of move can turn the 3-5 working day wait into a more Amazon Prime kind of response, i.e. faster than grease lightning. 

Remember once the DMs roll in to keep it flirty. Nobody wants someone asking them how their lockdown day was, unless you have genuine concern someone may not be feeling their best. Newsflash – it was probably as boring as yours. That’s why you’re talking now: because you don’t have anything else to do, remember. This longer, more protracted period of flirty chat could be the best thing for your prospective love life as it could help build sexual tension and make that post-lockdown first date have more chemistry than the South Parks Road labs. 

Now here’s where things start to get more complicated; it’s been almost 2 months of lockdown already and the chances are if you’re reading this article you are used to a fully fleshed out love life in non-Covid times. You may want to get intimate with the person or people you are having these completely wholesome quarantine chats with and are wondering what to do about it. The simple answer? Just ask. It’s 2020, consent is here to stay, as is owning your sexuality and who you are/ what you want to do. Don’t be embarrassed if they turn down the offer – it most likely isn’t you, but more own preference around such things, and that is perfectly valid– you can simply ask to keep speaking and keep it PG-13. If on the other hand they do agree to something more intimate, follow some basic ground rules: don’t show your face and make everything one view only– it could save you some hassle in the future. Or, if you want to keep things more wholesome, how about having a Zoom date or even a good old-fashioned phone call? 

The key thing to remember is that this is your quarantine and however you want to spice it up is entirely valid. No one in the world has done this sort of lockdown before so no one can tell you how your efforts will end up. 

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